I know the 'C' on everyone's mind at the moment is coronavirus, but another 'C', the original Big C, has been a worry for me for the last couple of months.
As most of you know, I suffered from bowel cancer twenty years ago. I had to undergo surgery and six months of chemotherapy after that, and luckily, apart from one or two minor niggles that I've been left with, I haven't had many problems since. I won't go into detail here as bowel habits aren't a very nice subject to discuss, but they're something we should all be aware of as any change can signify that all isn't well.
Back in February, I went to see my GP as I had a few concerns and she sent me to see a colorectal consultant on an urgent two week referral. From there I was given another urgent appointment, this time for a colonography, which is a type of CT scan. The preparation for the scan started the day before, I had to follow a special diet and swallow a contrast agent so that my bowel would show up. They would usually perform a colonoscopy but I'm unable to tolerate this more invasive procedure due to adhesions from my surgery. I had this scan in March and just as I was expecting the results, the country went into lockdown.
I've spent a lot of time on the telephone over the last few weeks speaking to various people in a number of departments trying to chase up the results but as out-patient departments are now closed and so many admin and clinical staff are off work due to the coronavirus, or redeployed elsewhere, no-one could help. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to wait for the results until all this is over. I tried to tell myself that no news is good news, but having heard of cancer patients having their treatment halted half way through, and other people who have been diagnosed with cancer just recently not even able to start on their treatment, there was still a gnawing worry in the back of my mind.
Even after twenty years, the anxiety of having had cancer never goes away. Having to have another scan and waiting for results took me straight back to 2001 after my treatment, when I sat in clinics and out-patient departments, waiting to be told if the cancer had gone, was still there, or worse still, had spread. For many years afterwards I had regular check-ups and the same old feelings would return. I only have to catch a whiff of the surgical tape which was used to hold cotton wool on my arm where a needle had been inserted, to be taken back to the ward where I had my chemo, or a letter dropping through the letterbox on hospital headed notepaper to get those butterflies in my stomach, so to speak. There's so many little things which evoke traumatic memories from this time.
After finally admitting defeat, there was no-one at the hospital who could give me my results, a letter eventually dropped on the doormat, nearly six weeks since I had the colonography, telling me that the scan has 'not shown any serious or concerning large bowel pathology'. I can't tell you what a weight off my mind this is. They did say that there was a 'relevant incidental finding outside the colon', but I won't go into that here. Suffice to say, it's nothing connected to the reason I was sent for tests in the first place and nothing life-threatening, but will be followed up as an out-patient in a different department once clinics are open again.
It's been a turbulent couple of months, what with my dad being in hospital at the time of my hospital appointments and then the lockdown coming in to force. At least this is one less thing to stress about now, and my dad seems to be managing at home at the moment, though I hope by saying this I'm not tempting fate. There's always something to worry about, or at least there is for me, I'm a born worrier.